Aug 13, 2014

Before You Speak About Suicide

The internet has exploded over the last few days about suicide, grief, depression and the death of a beloved public figure and fellow human being. The world awoke again today without another beautiful face. And families around the world like my own, are fighting our own challenges with recurring emotions from having to relive the suicide of loved one(s) as the news and life around us grapple with issues publicly that we've grieved about in silence; some of us for months and some of us for years. I've read prominent public figures spout rhetoric and nothing short of hate speech in regard to mental illness and suicide. I even read today that Zelda Williams closed her social media presence because people were spewing negativity her way! This girl will bury her father soon. And my friends wonder why my little family in Oklahoma went social media silent? No wonder those loved ones who succumb to death by their own hand usually seek so little help.

I am no expert in suicide, mental health or grief. But my family has been acutely intimated with these things not over the last several months. I am not haughty enough to believe that my written voice will contribute anything to the explosion of internet conversation surrounding these issues, but as a family who is intimated with loss these days, I have a few thoughts on person(s) or personalities who feel compelled to speak out about this issue.

So before you publicly speak about suicide or death or grief, here is what one family whose living this nightmare would like for you to know:

1.) Suicide has a horrific stigma. My family buried my baby brother, age 29, on February 15, 2014, one day after Valentine's Day. Ever tried to buy funeral flowers one day after the biggest retail sales day of flowers in the United States? It is the definition of suckage. The florist was more worried about the amount of white roses that couldn't be in my brother's casket spray because of limited supply than she was the fact my sister and I were holding hands with streaming tears our whole visit. His death was not as valued as a fictionalized Hallmark holiday. I wanted to keep a pair of my brother's boots so that when anyone would ever question his struggles or his "choice", I could let them wear them around awhile until they came up with an answer. There is a certain blogger these days who could learn a few things from wearing Guy's or Robin's shoes.

2.)  It's still death. 120days after burying my brother, my dad died of a heart attack. There was no pain differential for me in the death of my brother or father. My two favorite dudes were no longer here and it was now a permanent fact about my life. But how people chose to address us about dad's death was almost laughable as compared to my brother's. Death deals itself to us all and whether it was by my brother's own hand or by God "taking my father home" through a heart attack does not didn't make either loss less tragic and it doesn't remove the void that forever haunts my heart. The empty spaces at our family table are still there.
If you are willing and able to plunge into loving a grieving family dealing with suicide/loss/grief, keep your candy coated Sunday School verbiage in your mouth. "I love you." "I'm here." "I'm sorry." "I'm praying for you." are all appropriate and conveys any message you wish to share. If you cannot keep from spouting off anything other than the suggestions listed above, just shut up entirely.

3.) You are not entitled to specifics. We as a society project so much of our lives onto social media that we feel we have a right to know everything about every body. Saying that someone has passed is not enough for us, we want details. We are voyeuristic in these days. Someone will share with you what they will and what they don't, don't ask. And for the love of sweet baby Jesus, do not be a rumor monger who makes us generalizations or facts up as you go.

4.) Please keep your tyrannical opinions to yourself. I feel this way about most everything in life these days. "The Mommy Wars", "homeschool v. traditional education" but especially suicide; if your statement(s) begin with a universal statement, please know you've already lost me. I am proud to live in a country where you are entitled to have your own opinion. That same freedom doesn't mean I have to endure listening to it, especially if you classify your opinion as applicable to everyone in every situation. Romans 12:9-10 "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love..." Most of what I've seen on social media this week is not sincere or good and I again wrestle with the Jesus I love and the responses of those who claim to love him too.

5.) Be a good listener or have walked through depression/suicide/mental illness or love someone who has. Jason Gray has an amazing song called "Not Right Now." A verse of that song states "While I wait for the smoke to clear, you don't even have to speak just sit with me in the ashes here and together we can pray for peace, to the One acquainted with our grief." The most amazing people who've come along side me during this nightmare are the one who've done nothing more than simply be present, not with words or advice, but simply the ones who simply just show up.

6.) You see the problems, we just miss the person. When you say death or grief or suicide, I just see two of my favorite men and so does anybody else who's dealing with the loss of someone they love. So while the entirety of social media erupts in a medical/religious/philosophical debate, I'll crawl back in my hole with tissues and pictures of my dudes.

My 2 my wedding.  

Jun 1, 2014

Obsessed With Growing

I've fallen in love with gardening over the last several years. 
Flowers, veggies, putting on gloves and digging in the dirt make my eyes light up.
On weekends where there are  no soccer tournaments or family events, 
we head to several farmer's markets, hardware stores and gardening centers
where I spend hours buying local produce, gardening soil, seeds and plants. 

My kids are sick and tired of hearing me say 
"What if we just bought a farm, moved to the country and acted like pioneers?"

To say the least, I am married to and raising city folk.


If gardening was fun four months ago, losing my little brother has turned planting things 
into a full blown passion.

The Hero tells me all the time that I am obsessed with growing things. 

I balked at this statement for a few weeks. 
But after several hours outside yesterday, I looked around to notice I have indeed become
somewhat determined to overflow bare dirt with things that grow. 

Empty pots, flower beds, vases, and bare ground better beware around the Andrews Casa lately.
It's the best therapy for grief I know. 

I am definitely a battle wounded warrior, as are so many others who have lost someone they love.

Living here, fulfilling purpose is about growing, not only ourselves but those around us so that there can be something beautiful, here on Earth and one day in heaven. 

So yes, perhaps I am obsessed with growing things. 

Not only in the ground, but in the hearts and lives of whom I come into contact.

So go grow something today. 

May 21, 2014

Dear Kids: Before We Can Get to Summer

Dear Kids,

I understand that you have received a memo that summer is upon us and school is about to release for well earned break. As we hurl ourselves toward the final days of discipline and books, this worn and weary mother needs to cover a few things before we are crammed together in our home for three months of primeval torture  summer wonderment. So before we can get to summer, Mommy has a list of rule changes from now until the last day of class.

1.) There are still days on the school calendar left to muddle through. I appreciate that you have spent the last week with parties and testing and book reading marathons, but the school district in which we live still requires your butt to be in a chair for a few more required days. Therefore, you may stop asking me EVERY. SINGLE. Morning "We aren't really doing anything today, do I HAAAAAVE to go to school?"

The answer is yes. I am clinging to these last few days as well. As quickly as you are hoping they pass, the unstructured chaos of summer makes this Type A mama woozy. Only a few more quiet mornings of tea by myself before you all re-invade our home like a band of traveling monkeys playing the cymbals.

2.) Since you have been depositing your backpacks, lunch bags and sports equipment sporadically throughout the house as if this is the Great Year End Scavenger Hunt, I have now instituted the following rule: You Can't Find An Item, I'll Cry A Little Tear For You. However, I will not engage in your effort to help me lose my mind by searching for hours for something you "need" when had you let me go through your backpack, lunch bag, sports equipment in the first place we wouldn't have this problem.

3.) I cannot be fully responsible for the confines of what you bring to lunch during these last few school days. If you refuse to clean out your lunch bag, as is your daily chore, I will chunk your lovingly wrapped PBnJ on top of whatever refuse you continue to harbor inside. My mama didn't raise no fool. If you are afraid to clean it out, it means there is something living inside that I also will refuse to touch.

4.) Any request for homemade snacks, teacher's gifts, or special request for anything other than a PBnJ for lunch not received with twenty-four hour notice will be denied. I appreciate that you are probably seeing your beloved teacher receive drool-worthy Pinterest-praised gifts. Trust me, she'll drool the same over a gift card from Target. A special request for lunch not received within the required notice period will be handled by either A) A PBnJ sandwich or B) a pre-packaged something or other from the gas station.

5.) Your clothing options: You are on your own! As you refuse to put away your laundry or to retrieve the stank pile of clothes hiding under your bed since April, I have announced martial law over the laundry room. Whatever you can wear that is clean, kudos! I no longer care if your classmates smell the socks you've refused to change since Monday. Have their mama call me. We can lament which one of you is the stinkiest over glasses of merlot tomorrow while you are both in school.

Hopefully, these rules will allow us to relax and ease into the upcoming months of freedom  screaming, yelling, fighting and daily whimpering of "I'm bored."



May 20, 2014

An Honest Answer

I've been prepping clients to testify for litigation for over ten years now. This can be a lawyer's worst trial nightmare if your client is a talker and can't bring themselves to believe that things like "I don't know", "I don't remember" or "Can you ask that again?" are all legitimate answers. When you force yourself to create answer when you really aren't sure can be dangerous ground.

I think it is something inherent in our DNA as people that when we are asked a question, we feel forced to give an answer. In this day of quick "Hi. How are yous?", I don't want to give a  long drawn out answer and the person hearing the response doesn't really want to listen to a dissertation about my problems either. We have settled for frosting covered niceness. Civility without the depth. I use to be a huge abuser of this trait. I would ask "How are you?" and hardly wait for the answer. I find this almost impossible to do anymore.
So I've started taking my own advice.

When I see someone in real life that I haven't seen since I lost my brother and they ask me "How are you?", I say the only thing I know how to say and be truthful:

"I don't know."

It is not a false statement. I really don't know how I am most days. Many mornings are blasted with the humdrum of soccer practice, dirty dishes, laundry, work and the daily functions that keep our little family in a rhythm. My kids need a steady beat of rhythm in normal circumstances. But these days, we all need even more than usual.

Some days are a fight to get out of bed. I want to lay down and cry and scream and break every piece of glass I can get my hands on. There are moments of sheer delight watching my kids throw themselves headlong into summer's glory and yet there are moments when I struggle to be around so much merriment. Moments some days are filled with thanksgiving for small gifts, like a sunrise or a new flower growing and some moments when I list my things for which I am grateful, I stare a blank paper.

The truth is that there is a void in my life. A void that can only be filled by a six foot tall,  gorgeously blue-eyed little brother who use to text me that I needed to cut back on the Twinkies because my butt was bigger than the last time he saw me. I've never wanted to be called fat so badly in all my life.
It is always going to hurt. There will always be a missing piece to my heart and family events will forever be a touch of sweet and sour.

My soul knows all the appropriate things to say to someone going through grief like me.

"He's in a better place."

"You will see him again."

"This life isn't forever."

And there are days that I can give myself a pep talk long enough that it works.

But for the days that I can't stop crying at ridiculous country songs or seeing his things in my house, I've given myself the grace to say "I don't know" how I am today and to believe that it is an honest answer. 

May 11, 2014

No Greeting Cards For This...A Gift For You This Mother's Day

I stood in the greeting card aisle this morning with all my fellow procrastinators, 
wondering if Hallmark writers had better words to say for my mother, for myself and 
the mom friends I know who are struggling on this celebratory day for mothers.

As I flipped through card after card of dripping sweet sentiments, 
I realized one thing about holidays and Hallmark?

They both really suck when you're struggling.

There is a mom's brunch today.
With some of my favorite moms in this life. 
But the thought of going is like a weight around my neck.
I'm afraid tears will come too easily and I won't be able to cover up my grief.
I'm worried my loss will overshadow the beauty of roses and tea and togetherness.

 Life and holidays and greeting cards continue even though you may be struggling to get out of bed.
Every one's version of grief and struggle and pain are different. 
And you will find no judgement on that here.

Maybe you lost someone this year like me and another holiday without them seems unbearable.

Perhaps your mom has been gone for years but the loss of not having her aches through your soul. 
And days like today that ache burns even harder so. 

Or you're a mom in your heart only who the dream of giggles and squishy toes is being attacked by infertility.

Or you're an adoptive mom who the weight of these new kids and issues are so much harder than you imagined, but you feel ungrateful if you confide the truth in anyone. 

Maybe this day in May is impossible to fully enjoy, as you are filling the role of both parents because the other one is absent. 

Maybe you're a widow a facing your first year or you fiftieth year without your love.

Maybe you've lost your job, are going through a painful divorce or are estranged from your
 family because of years of abuse. 

Or perhaps you are like every other mom in this tiny globe and you are exhausted, overworked and wondering at the end of each day:

"Did I do it right today?"

Here are my flowers for you today. 

Because you ARE doing it right today. 
Doing this motherhood gig at all is doing it right.
And YES, I do count you as a mother if you are battling infertility or completing an adoption.

Doing life messy and with ragged, exhausted breaths is doing it great.

If I could give each of you something for mother's day it would be a card that says only three words.

It would be in your favorite color and made out of crayons, because that's all we mothers can seem to find to write with when the necessary time comes.

I'd pour glue over the letters  and cover it with glitter so that it would be so shiny you can see it hanging on your fridge, visible across your laundry filled, back pack laden, toy museum of a living room. 
Or hanging over the crib of the baby your heart aches for; or over the place where you grieve; whether it be a closet or a couch.
And on days when you are struggling to exhale without someone screaming your name or your house is so silent you feel mad from the lack of noise, you can look up and be reminded that this day, 


There is no handbook for grief. 
They make no cards for loss or pain or for the struggle of a single parent's schedule. 
 I've looked.

Just know that I understand today can be a hard day. 
Because today is another day in life and some of us just want the world to stop for a moment.
Whether it is for a period of years to let us grieve, or even for just a few more hours of precious sleep.

No matter what the world knows of your life from the outside. 
No body has lived it from the inside like you. 
But from one worn out battle wounded woman to you, this is encouragement to keep going.
Even if "going" looks like a snail's pace crawl. 

I'm cheering you on today. 

Happy Mother's Day all. 

May 5, 2014

Musical Monday: If Heaven Weren't So Far Away

My little brother loved country music. The station in his truck is still set to his favorite country station.
I don't have the heart to change it. 
I may never. 

This song came on the radio today and I just lost it. 

If only heaven weren't so far away.

I would take a day trip all by myself. 

I'd want him to introduce me to Jesus personally.

And we'd spend the entire day with my baby bro telling me exactly how to live the rest 
of my life on earth with out him. 

I'd let Nannie lecture me one more time on how to be a good person. 
And to always remember to trust my gut instinct about all else.

Papa would hug me and say he'd leave a pot of coffee on for me. 

And I would cry all the way home.

At least it would be seeing them all in person.

And not only in my dreams. 

Apr 29, 2014

Needing To Break

One of the many reasons why my husband is so good for me is he balances the crazy.
I come to him with ridiculous ideas and he never tells me "No" flat out.
Most times he just redirects my crazy into something productive.
Some thing safer than my original version. 

Grief has been doing a number on me. 

Most days I don't have any tears, 
until I feel them rolling down my face.

Some mornings I want to eat a box of Twinkies for breakfast, 
only to clock five miles on the treadmill in the afternoon.

Screaming, crying, writing, eating and drinking all in excess haven't eased any part of my broken heart.

So I told The Hero last week that I wanted to start breaking things.
I wanted to watch glass hit and shatter and come apart.
Seeing beautifully decorated tables in magazines, leaves me wondering what all that pottery would look like broken on the floor. 

I told him that perhaps watching something else coming undone would help me feel.
Feel what I wasn't sure.
But I told him I needed to break.

In his perfectly, amazing way he came home a few days later with a giant bag of whole pecans.
"It's not plates or dishes, but I thought this would help."
I laughed.

On nights where I struggle most, I release my grip on doing dinner dishes,
grab my bag and bowl and head out to the porch.

A few nights ago, The Hero found me and asked if cracking pecans was any bit of a release for me.

I nodded. 

And then suggested he go by me my own pecan tree.

Apr 20, 2014

Being Drug Into Spring

It appears that Oklahoma has officially entered into spring.

Everything is changing colors.
The weatherman reports warmer temperatures are here to stay.
People are out walking their dogs, playing in the parks and buzzing with the hype of impending summer.

We are spending more time outside with soccer and gardening.
The thrill of watching things change and become green is still thrilling to the kids.
Promises of berries and jam, swimming and fun are all they talk about these days.
They have even braved getting in the swimming pool a couple of times already.

I want so badly to replicate their excitement. 
To get lost in the anticipation that comes with changing seasons.

I make myself spend time in the garden every day.
Some days, I just meander through, watering plants and pulling weeds.
Other days, I spend hours planting, pruning, working to utter exhaustion. 
Just so that I can be able to sleep.

But as much as I try, I just cannot bring myself to fully embrace the season change.
The last season you saw was the bitter cold of winter. 
And there is so much of my heart that is frozen from the ache of missing you.
I suppose that I deep down fear that welcoming spring, will mean I forget all about the last winter you lived. 

Apr 11, 2014

Big 6!

Often, when we are so wrapped up in grief, things slip past us. The concept of time can slap us right in the face and we are scrambling to put things together for an event or holiday. 
Worse, at times, we just wish the event/holiday/social gathering/appearance
would altogether disappear.
While I adore my baby boy so very much, I would be lying if I told you I had been looking forward to preparing for his sixth birthday party. 
Truth: I was full on dreading it. 
And with so many other things falling apart, the day crept up on me faster than I wanted to admit. 

The planning was drowning to me:


Trying to laugh.
Cleaning up.
Deciding where to have it.

Having to pick an outfit for myself that wasn't sweats and my brother's brown hoodie.


For someone who is still grieving a party with screaming toddlers, balloons and party favors 
was my personal version of hell.

Little Man wasn't the most help either. 
On days I felt like I was in a frame of mind to plan, I would ask him what he wanted to do for his birthday.

His answers would range from taking his entire kindergarten class on a play date (Uh, NO!!!!),

to The Hero and I buying him a b.b. gun (UH, DOUBLE NO)

to all of us going to Disney World (Not in the budget).

He also refused to settle on a theme.

He would tell me "Mom, you know I like it all."

"And minions."
"Lots of minions."

With not much else to go off of and no real energy to peruse Pinterest looking for ways to entertain six year olds, I buckled under the pressure.

The invitations were by Facebook invite only.

Family and a few of our dearest friends whose children I knew I could socially tolerate.

Decorations were a hodge podge of all of his favorites.

Cupcakes were of the store-bought variety.

We topped off the whole cupcake/punch affair with a candy-crammed pinata, sang Happy Birthday and celebrated our newly turned six year old. 

We even made it, just the four of us out for dinner to the Ethiopian restaurant in our area for an extra dosing of celebrating. 

All of it was beautiful and special and he felt on top of the world. 
And for one small glimmer of an afternoon, life felt....well, I would like to say normal, but I hate that word.


I know that's not a real word. 

I made it up. 

But grieving through my brother's death has left most of my breaths like they are unable
 to be let loosed from my chest. 

And for one small, Sunday afternoon surrounded by our family and friends, I felt
covered in enough love to let out a breath and not immediately feel the need to fall apart. 

Which allowed me to embrace and enjoy this smile:

Happy Super Six to my favorite Dinosaur! And to all of those we know and love us who made the day extra special and who didn't even notice that the party was not Pinterest worthy, but was worthy for nothing more than the company. 

Apr 9, 2014

Seeing You

I saw you yesterday at the grocery store. It caught me by surprise at first, to see you standing there, but as I approached you from behind, I saw traces of your hair and your stance. I held my breath and rationalized to myself that it was not, in fact, you, but a person who faintly resembled you. It was my heart that wanted it so desperately to be you.

This is the status of my life these days.

Trucks that look similar to yours that pass me on the street, late-twenties boys who stand near me pumping gas; these things make me pause to doubt.

As I past this person with my shopping cart, I couldn't help but turn over my shoulder to make sure that it wasn't you. Do you think it's silly that I was actuly saddened that it wasn't you? Double check that it isn't indeed you. I may never again look at my phone and not wonder if it is you calling to chat or hear the "ding" of a text message and hope that it is you sending me a joke.

My child mentioned you at dinner a few nights ago. You know, that child of mine who loved you so. The one who climbed in your lap when you would visit and demand every bit of your attention? He said it so sweetly and innocently, I almost didn't notice. He could have asked me for more bread. But when The Hero reached for my hand, I knew the small one had said something about you. I asked him to repeat it. Slow. Soft.

"I miss Uncle Guy."

There were no tears in his eyes. No softened words. Just forward and truthful; like kids do.

Tonight the little one and I made dinner, filled our plates and was five minutes into watching The Voice. We were discussing hair styles and singing when he said "Mommy, I guess it's ok that Uncle Guy is in Heaven. I have two uncles and it doesn't matter that he is in Heaven. He is still my uncle."

I tried to hard not to let him see me cry. But my kids are use to me disappearing into the kitchen these days.
I guess I'm not the only one whose been missing you lately. I suppose the hole that you left in my life and in my heart was not only a hole for me, but for others too. I suppose I've just been so awash with my own grief and hurt looking for you that I hadn't much noticed. But it appears that we all are looking for you.

Mar 30, 2014

Then She Shows Up

She was one of the first people I told the night we lost my brother.
As The Hero drove to my parents house , I texted my out of state soul sister
begging for scripture and prayers.
She was working on both within minutes.
She was adamant about flying in for the funeral.
I begged her to stay; I knew we would be unable to just be with everything else going on.
She checked on me constantly.
Lifted me up so deeply and fervently I could feel it.
And then came the day she just showed up.
In real life.
On my doorstep.
Four states away from Colorado to Oklahoma.
With her amazing little family.
All five of them.
Four full days of friendship. 
Friendship that has gone beyond Amy and I and has infected our children and husbands. 
A true blending of hearts and lives.
  We played with our kids,
laughed and cried together
and spent an entire afternoon engaging one another while moving two tons of
dirt and mulch in our backyard garden.
Our kids were actually begging us to go out again and play in the dirt some more!

She offered to take me out to dinner or shopping
just the two of us on more than one occasion.
And while we did get some great "mommy time",
what I needed most in those four days was just the presence
 of my friend and her little family.
To embrace our kids and giggle at kid antics and
sibling quarrels and to be reminded that friendship
is never completely what we bring to a relationship.
It is not only the sum of what we can offer someone else.
It is the ebb and flow of what we give to and what we take away
 from one another that makes it deep and pure and yes, even holy.
She gave all of herself and I hope she took away a new appreciation for how amazing she is at meeting somebody in their suffering.
I gave her a glimpse into my hurt and the hole in my heart and took
from that the knowledge that we are not meant to suffer alone.  
An example of Earth as it is in Heaven.
Perfection in my recent darkness.
My little family was devastated to see them pull out of our driveway.
We were renewed and revived just by spending time together.
Then my amazing friend drove four states home and wrote a blog post about what a gift it was to serve me and mine during our suffering and the meaning 
of just showing up in the midst of someone's hurt.
And show up she did.
In so many ways, with very little words
and yet in the middle of grieving,
it was everything myself and my little family needed it to be.

Mar 25, 2014


Being the youngest of three, my brother was always doing things to make us laugh, or to turn our heads. When my sis and I started dating, in the age before cell phones, we would crowd around our parents' phone on a Friday night in the kitchen and wait for it to ring.
My brother, even in his pre-teen years, towered over my sister and I and was almost six foot before he was fifteen.
When the phone would ring, Laura and I would leap for it and he would barrel past us easily.
"Uh...she's not here."
"She left about an hour ago with some other dude."
Then he would hang up.
We would be fuming, demanding he tell us who was on the other end
and which of us they were asking out.
He would shrug his shoulders, laugh and head off to his room.
"I've got no idea girls. Good luck with that."
He got his first tattoo before his twentieth birthday.
My mother was horrified that her baby boy had inked himself permanently.
For at least a year, he convinced her as only the baby of the family can, that it was only a henna tattoo and he went every three weeks to have them redone.
She was livid when Laura and I broke it to her that those tats would never be coming off. He finally got her to laugh about it when he told her he was getting her name tattooed on his backside. When she finally realized he had meant he was going to get "your name" tattooed on his butt, she gave up on trying to parent him and just laughed at his joke.
He and I talked about getting tattooed a lot.
 He loved it.
I think he believed that his tattoos had to be temporarily painful so he'd permanently
remember all that he had been through.
He also said that Laura and I would never go through with getting
one because we were too big of chickens.
(Actually, I know he said that to me. I think he believed Laura always had the guts.)
After his funeral, Laura and I decided that there was only one way to appropriately remember all the pain that his loss would carry with us for the rest of our lives.
We decided on the Bible verse that we had chosen for his coffin.
Isaiah 46:4 "I have made you. I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you."
And I insisted that it be in Laura's handwriting.
His Bible verse.
Her handwriting.
Sibling love.
I think my mom is secretly pissed we marked our bodies.  
But I know he is smiling his face off on his cloud as our witness, as we muddle through this race of life without him.
P.S. Laura was a trooper and went first when we got our tats.
I cried like a baby.
Some big sister I turned out to be. :) 
He was right all along.
I miss you precious dude.
I wish we would have gotten inked together, but I'm honored that my first was in ode to you.

Mar 24, 2014

Musical Monday: The Afters' Broken Hallelujah

This song is such a great description of how I have felt over the last month. Losing my brother has changed how I pray, how I look at death and how I view the rest of my days on this earth. So many times throughout the day, I just stare up at the sky and think

 "How are you going to bring beauty from ashes?" "How can I be any good to You after this?"

I am thankful for the reminder that He is God and I am not. It helps relieve the stress and is a great peace that whether my Hallelujah is broken or not, it's offering it up that makes all the difference. Happy Monday ya'll!

Mar 19, 2014

The Anger Side of Grief

I tried to "google" the different stages of grief after my brother's funeral. It just made me mad and I stopped looking to the Internet for answers that will never come. I do remember in my research that there is supposed to be an anger stage of grief. This makes sense to me because I reached the anger stage of grief quite easily on my own. Actually, I believe that I may have taken up residence in this stage.

I had even suggested to my sister that she buy two sets of boxing gloves and whoever had a problem with anything for the rest of forever could meet me in a dark alley and I would be glad to school them. I was angry at every doctor who ever saw my brother, every medication he was prescribed to take instead of investigating the cause of his depression, the funeral director for a ridiculous suggestion for music and various friends and family members who dared to suggest that my brother's death would be a mere event that I "got through". Oh yes. I am quite familiar with the anger side of grief in the past few weeks.

But out of every flash of anger, each rage of emotion that crossed my heart, I never was mad at my brother. Several people have suggested that it will come; that it is customary, acceptable and even appropriate to be angry with those who take their own lives. But I have read my brother's journal, his emails, his text messages and his notes to himself. And there is no way on this side of heaven that in the midst of his depression and loneliness that I could ever be angry with him. Am I devastated by missing him? Absolutely. Angry with myself that I did not know the depths of his sorrow? I will be for the rest of my days. But mad at my baby brother for fighting off demons that I have never understood, nor fought off myself? No.  Never.

How could I be angry at someone who fought so hard to conceal what he battled, so that no one else would know? Why would I, for one second be cross with a soul that would have never harmed another living creature? And how could spend one minute of my given breath being upset that my brother's struggle had ended in any other fashion than him back in the Father's arms?

I may forever be in the angry stage of grief, but it will never be because I am angry with my brother.


Mar 18, 2014

Grief Doesn't Come With A Handbook

It's a miracle that both of my parents are still sane. Having three kids under five must have been a circus most of the time. Heck, sometimes have two almost five years apart is more than my feeble mind can process. One thing I always remember my mom saying when we got in trouble or we were trying to reason through some family issue was "Maybe that was the wrong parenting move, but you guys didn't come with a handbook on how to parent you."
She's repeated the same thing to me when I became a parent and I would call her about whether or not some behavior issue of mine or my child(ren) was adoption related or a personality conflict.

"Linz, go with your gut because God doesn't bring kids with a handbook."

She wasn't kidding.

Grief is the damnest thing I've ever been dealt. It strikes me in the most inopportune, ridiculous places in a day. A parent screaming during my 5 year old's basketball game sent me into a full blown panic and a house full of guests playing cards, led me to crying in my bathroom. Neither of these instances have any explainable reasoning. Maybe it was the undue pressure parents were placing on their children during the game and perhaps it was the most merriment I had felt in weeks made me feel guilty, but grief is definitely getting the blame.

Just as children don't come with a handbook about parenting, neither does death have a guide for how we are supposed to grieve. Tears will find me in the oddest times and sadness can creep inside my heart while there is still a smile on my face. I sometimes catch myself wondering "is this normal? Am I supposed to react like that?" But then nothing about death and living with the loss of someone you love is normal and since no one has written the handbook on grief, I'm giving myself the grace to muddle my own way through.

Mar 12, 2014

Choosing Grace

I could see very early in grieving my brother's death that I could easily become bitter. At him, at the world, at my current circumstances and at life in its entirety. But I wanted to see Christ move through this loss and use it in a way that was glorifying to Him. If that were to happen, I was going to have to make the choice to see Him in this season of my life.

Please hear me. This does not preclude me from dealing with all of the appropriate stages of grief; yet, while I embrace each emotion, as each day is the struggling that it is, I have promised myself that I will purposely search out God's provision and goodness. Some days this proves easier than others. On the days that are harder than most, I have to focus in a moment of the day and simply say "Thank You." There have been more than one day that the only thanks I could utter was that the water in the shower was hot. And I give myself the grace on those days to be okay with just those few words of thanks.

So if you are struggling today, whether it be with addiction, depression, grief or just a general disposition of dissatisfaction, if you can't make the election of thankfulness, give yourself the grace to try again tomorrow.

Mar 11, 2014

Purple Tulips

I live less than a half of a mile from my office. For the last two weeks, I've gotten out of bed, showered, put makeup on my face and brushed my teeth and combed my hair. If you would have seen me function the last two weeks, an improvement would definitely have been noticed. The Hero is thrilled that I have returned from the land of sweatshirts and yoga pants and on most days the mental relief has been great.

Today was different. I followed our daily routine of teeth brushing, packing lunches, kissing the kids and sending everyone out the door. The cold air has seemed to have left Oklahoma for the season and at almost 9:00a.m., it was already 55 degrees. As I past by the tulips I planted last fall, two purple blooms had begun to make their arrival to our flowerbed. I smiled at the memory of the kids and I digging in the dirt and explaining how God brings something that looks dead in the ground, back to life under the right circumstances; a perfect mix of water and light.

The Hero let me drive his Jeep and I had the windows down, enjoying the drive alone.  I made it a block from the house when the tears came. I sat at the stoplight past it turning green and just wept. I wish my brother would have seen this spring day. He died on one of the coldest days of winter; biting winds and cold and snow. When I got to the office, I sat in the parking lot, just crying and praying.

Peace filled my heart and I was reminded that God brings something that looks dead back to life under the right circumstances. I will see my brother again. And not just in my dreams; which have been so amazing to experience lately. But one day when the sky rolls back, the Bible says that "the dead in Christ will rise" and if I'm still living, I will meet him in the air. And if I go before that day, he'll be right there, leading me to Jesus. Of these things I am sure. And so while his loss is real and will be with me the rest of my days, it is only a temporary condition; and for that I rejoice.

13-14 And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
15-18 And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18

After I wrote this post, I went online and researched the meaning of purple tulips. While purple is often used to signify royalty, "purple also symbolizes rebirth, therefore being the perfect color for spring."

Insert more tears.

Mar 10, 2014

Musical Monday: Charlie Hall's 'My Brightness'

I've loved this song for years, but every word of it has rung true yet again through this agonizing time.
And Happy Musical Monday 

Mar 9, 2014

Funerals Are For The Living

 It was a Tuesday. The Oklahoma air was so cold it would take your breath at the inhale. My brother had left us two days earlier. It seemed like a lifetime and a mere second before Tuesday. Someone had suggested Thursday for the funeral, but my sister had more of her wits about her than I did in that moment and had objected. The weather was predicted to be thirty degrees warmer on Saturday. I think the weather was definitely a factor, but I think she believed that Saturday would give us more time.

Who wants to attend a funeral on Saturday? I knew I didn't. But nobody whose loved somebody deeply ever has a desire to attend their funeral. Yes, Saturday technically gave us a few more days to plan and to process, but the time that I wanted had already been taken from me. I wanted more holidays, more blazing hot summer Sundays out by the pool watching our kids play together and us laughing at some silly joke. But the only time I had left alloted to me was going to be without him. So Saturday it would have to be.

While my brother's life was honored that day, the entire process of burying the dead is really for those who are left behind. We choose flowers and caskets and burial plots, not for those who are being planned around, but for those who are standing there to see it. I'm not sure if knowing that makes the process better or worse. If for the better, than it is so we carry the remembrance of those we've loved and lost into a honor we want those who knew them to agree with. Perhaps though it is always for the worse, because after all the flowers have died and the casket is lowered, the dead's status remains unchanged and the hollowness of our hearts are all that remain.


Mar 4, 2014

Your Free License

I finally looked through my brother's phone last week. I ended up on the floor of my bathroom heaving huge tears into a bathmat because of the wall of guilt that I found myself slammed against. The thing about my baby brother's depression was that no one really knew its depths. It wasn't until reviewing his text messages and pictures he saved to his phone did I really have to confront the doubts that had plagued him. And now knowing how long they had been haunting him just took my breath away.

You see, I never knew. That's one of the issues with depression is the suffering try to mask their true emotions from those even closest to them. They don't feel as though expressing them will do anything more than cause someone else pain.

I started a board on Pinterest a few weeks ago and I titled it "'s okay to struggle." I did that because if I could hold my brother one more time and explain to him how much I loved him, I would also whisper that I know now about his struggle and that it is okay.
There are so many debates among Christians that our faith is the essential oil of the rest of our lives; it will cure anything. We treat Jesus like our personal genie so that if someone is struggling we tell them to "just pray about it" or "Jesus solves everything." I don't mean to gloss over that fact. I do believe that the God of Abraham, Jacob and Issac is alive and moving just as he was when Jesus walked the earth, but do we really believe that even having a personal relationship with him makes up Teflon to attacks by the enemy?


Of course it doesn't. In fact, it makes us as Christians even better targets. Jesus himself told us before he was betrayed and crucified "...While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world." John 16:33.

Since we have been instructed by Christ himself that troubles are apparent in this life, then why do we react as if we are surprised? And why do we allow others to believe that their struggles are not valid? My brother's suicide has taught me a lot so far. But the most potent realization I want to have forever is encouraging others that whatever it is that they are going through, it is okay. You have free license to struggle, no judgement here. Now being given that license, you also should approach someone you trust in order to help you work it out.


Mar 3, 2014

Musical Monday: I Will Praise You In This Storm

The first song I started playing after learning of my brother's death was Casting Crowns' 'I Will Praise You In This Storm'. It was even one of the songs that we played during my brother's church service. It is one of my favorite reminders that I have no idea what God is doing through my family's tragedy, but no matter what it is, we are to praise Him. 

Here's your musical Monday song. 
Tell someone you love them today. 

Feb 28, 2014

Preaching An "I Miss You."


Every one's eyes in the room were looking at me for the answer.

I wasn't sure I had heard the question.


The last two days had been such a blur, I would often stare into space thinking I would awaken in a few moments and I would have only been dreaming. I often would pray that I was.

The funeral director was taking notes and we had come to the part of the meeting where we had to decide who was going to "officiate" my brother's funeral.

"I am."

I heard the words and then couldn't believe I had said them. Did I really think I could preach, officiate or even stand up during my baby brother's goodbye ceremony? But I had been thinking and praying about it a lot.

I had a number of people who would have gladly preached. We live in Oklahoma for crying out loud. I could have walked out of the front door of that funeral home and hit a pastor with a rock if I had wanted. There were at least four pastor's cell phone numbers in my purse.

But if we were all going to be gathered on a Saturday for an event no one wanted to be there for, let's not choose someone who my brother had never even met. If saying "see you soon" to the only baby brother I'd ever have was going to be the order of that day, I owed it to him as his big sister to do it myself. I couldn't think of another way.

The air must have escaped out of the room, because for a moment time stood still.
Mike, the funeral director, tried to reason with me.

"Have you thought about how hard this is going to be?"

I had.
I knew.
Did he know how hard it was knowing that my life as forever broken into two places: life with my brother and life without him?

A bad highlight reel had been playing in my head about the funerals I had attended where afterwards, I felt as though I knew the deceased less after hearing the same old hymns and dismal words said over a casket. If this were good night, it was going to be one of which my brother would have been honored to have played a part.

"I do. And I don't know that I can pull it off, but I have to try."

As we drove home, my sister looked at me through tears and said "If we have to do this, then we have to do it together. I'll be in charge of his graveside service."

I'm not sure what Laura and I said that Saturday afternoon. I know we both made it. Before I got up in front of that church, The Hero squeezed my hand and said "you've got this. You can do it. It's not goodbye; only 'see ya soon'."
My baby brother was so felt and present that day that Mike pulled Laura and I both aside afterwards and thanked us for letting him be a part of a funeral that was honorable and fitting for the "I miss yous" we were making.

And I guess that's a song my heart will sing for now until my last day because some days there are no other words than "I miss you."